William Kidd (1654-1701) was a Scottish ship’s captain, privateer and pirate. Early in his career, Kidd took to the sea, and soon made a name for himself as a skilled, hardworking seaman. In 1689, sailing as a privateer, he took a French vessel. The ship was re-named the Blessed William and Kidd was put in command by the Governor of Nevis. He sailed into New York just in time to save the governor there from a conspiracy. While in New York, he married a wealthy widow. Not long after, in England, he became friends with the Lord of Bellomont, who was to be the new Governor of New York.
England was at war with France, and piracy was common. Lord Bellomont and some of his friends set Kidd up as a privateer as a private enterprise. Kidd could attack French vessels or pirates but he had to share his earning with the investors. Kidd was given the 34-gun Adventure Galley and he set sail in May of 1696 for Madagascar and the Indian Ocean. He and his crew found very few pirate or French vessels to take. In August of 1697, he attacked a convoy of Indian treasure ships, but was driven off by an East India Company Man of War. This was an act of piracy and clearly not in Kidd’s charter. About this time, Kidd killed a mutinous gunner.
On January 30, 1698, Kidd's luck finally changed. He captured the Queddah Merchant, an Indian ship, with cargo owned by Armenians, and was captained by an Englishman named Wright. Allegedly, it sailed with French papers. Kidd, who sold off the cargo and divided the spoils of over two million dollars in today's money. Not long after, Kidd ran into a pirate ship captained by a notorious pirate named Culliford. Kidd swapped the leaking Adventure Galley for the fit Queddah Merchant and set sail for the Caribbean.
News of Kidd's piracy reached England. Bellomont and his wealthy friends began distancing themselves from the Captain Kidd's enterprise. As for Bellomont, he put out a proclamation of amnesty for pirates, but Kidd and Henry Avery were specifically excluded.
When Kidd reached the Caribbean, he learned that he was considered a pirate by the authorities. He returned to New York, where his friend, Lord Bellomont, could protect him until he was able to clear his name.
When he arrived in New York, he was arrested. Lord Bellomont refused to believe his stories. After spending a year in prison, Kidd was sent to England for trial. He was hanged on May 23, 1701.
Today Kidd is remembered as a reluctant pirate who was more unlucky than wicked. He has made quite an impact on popular culture, appearing in books, songs, movies, video games and much more.
Maritime scrimshaw, a unique American art form, has its roots in the age of wooden ships. In the 18th century, whaler sailing ships harvested whale and walrus blubber for lamp oil and candle wax. The sailors on whaling ships had a lot of spare time on board their ships. Mariners occupied their free time etching pictures and nautical scenes on bone, teeth, and tusks using sail sewing needles and small tools. Candle black, soot, or tobacco juice were used to bring the etched drawings into view. The earliest authenticated pictorial scrimshaw piece appeared around 1817.
This historical set includes a resin replica of a 17th century American scrimshaw. This vertical scrimshaw shows William 'Captain' Kidd's ship The Adventure. On the front is a vertical scrimshaw of the Adventure Galley, Captain Kidd's ship engaging and captured the Queddah Merchant, a treasure ship heading home from the Far East. On the back vertical side is a portrait of Captain William Kidd and two treasure maps included in Captain Kidd's papers. Kidd insisted until the end of his life that he had buried a great treasure.